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Falmouth, Yarmouth boys' soccer settle for 1-1 tie

Sports

Falmouth, Yarmouth boys' soccer settle for 1-1 tie

YARMOUTH—Forty-eight hours prior to gametime, longtime Falmouth boys'
soccer assistant coach Todd Whitcomb wouldn't say that his team would
beat fierce rival Yarmouth in the teams' first 2009 showdown, but he
did predict that it would be "great theater."

Whitcomb wasn't exaggerating.

Thursday evening, the defending Class B state champion Clippers came
closer than ever to ending their long home turf winless streak to the
Yachtsmen, but when all was said and done and those on hand allowed
their blood pressure to stabilize, neither team earned bragging rights,
settling instead for a 1-1 draw.

Yarmouth struck first on junior Luke Pierce's goal in the eighth
minute and it appeared it might hold up after senior goalkeeper A.J.
Oliver made a pair of highlight reel saves to rob Falmouth senior
standout Gabe Hoffman-Johnson (including one on a penalty shot), but in
the 51st minute, Yachtsmen senior Ford Bohrman scored out of a scrum
and despite several good chances down the stretch and in overtime for
the visitors, the contest ended in a deadlock.

"These are fun games," said Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty. "It's good soccer. It's just fun and exciting."

"It was a good game," said Falmouth coach Dave Halligan. "The next
one will be a good one too. These games are always hard fought. Each
team respects the other."

Battling history

While the Clippers have won three of the past five Class B
championships, they haven't been able to protect their turf field from
the mighty Yachtsmen.

The last time Yarmouth beat Falmouth at home came Oct. 12, 1999,
nearly two years before the turf field was ready for action. In that
game, the Clippers got goals from Tucker Hodgkins, Todd Magee and Eoin
Lynch and downed the Yachtsmen 3-1.

After playing the Yachtsmen to a 2-2 tie in 2001, the Clippers had
suffered home losses to their nemesis in 2002 (1-0), 2003 (1-0), 2005
(1-0), 2006 (3-1), 2007 (1-0) and last year (1-0). Along the way,
Yarmouth lost in the fog and in a game which saw a goal go through its
goalie's legs. For the most part, Falmouth was simply better and
faster.

Of course, Yarmouth was happy to trade last year's result for what
transpired in the Western B Final, when the Clippers rallied for a
dramatic 2-1 win at Falmouth on Pierce's late header off a corner kick.

Both teams have gotten out of the gate quickly in 2009. The
Yachtsmen defeated Fryeburg (3-0), Greely (4-2), Poland (12-0) and Cape
Elizabeth (3-1). The Clippers enjoyed victories over Wells (9-0), Cape
Elizabeth (2-1), Freeport (1-0) and Gray-New Gloucester (1-0).

Thursday's showdown added another memorable chapter to the rivalry.

Both teams had golden chances in the early going. Early in the sixth
minute, Falmouth couldn't capitalize when junior Sam White beat a
defender to a through-ball because Oliver raced in and broke up the
rush.

The hosts then finished their best chance of the first half. With
32:49 to go, senior Ebrahim Fazeli sent a long direct goal on goal. Our
of nowhere raced Pierce and he just beat Falmouth junior keeper Ben
Goffin to the ball and tapped it home to give Yarmouth a 1-0 edge. It
was just the third time the Clippers held a lead over the Yachtsmen on
the turf. Yarmouth led 2-0 early in the 2-2 tie back in 2001 and
briefly held a 1-0 advantage in 2006 before falling 3-1.

Falmouth then put the pressure on late in the first half, seeking
the equalizer. With 9:15 to go, Hoffman-Johnson raced for a pass from
White and tried to get a head on the ball, but just missed and Oliver
made the catch. With 5:45 remaining, Yarmouth sophomore Josh Britten
made a heads-up play clearing a loose ball out of the box and setting
up the Yachtsmen's first corner kick. With 2:07 left, Hoffman-Johnson
was fighting for a loose ball in the box and was knocked down, but play
went on. Finally, in the 38th minute, junior Johnny Goodrich had a good
look up top, but fired wide.

"I was really pleased with the first half," said Hagerty. "I thought
we came out really strong. I thought the kids were good about not
overcommiting at certain spots on the field since Falmouth can make you
pay dearly for one mistake. We were disciplined in our shape. We picked
our times when to attack."

Falmouth came out bound and determined to draw even at the start of
the second half, but it appeared for awhile as if the Yachtsmen were
destined for a frustrating loss.

Just a minute, 10 seconds into the second stanza, Bohrman got to a
loose ball off a direct kick and sent a header on net, but Oliver was
in the right spot to make the save. A minute later, the ball came free
in front and Hoffman-Johnson unleashed a bullet that hit Oliver in the
leg and bounced wide. After Goffin made a save on a Fazeli shot at one
end, Falmouth had its best chance at the other when Yachtsmen junior
Michael Bloom got tied up with Britten in the box, went crashing to the
ground and a penalty kick was called.

Oliver didn't seem to have much of a chance against the talented
Hoffman-Johnson (whom Halligan chose to take the kick), but he guessed
right, dove right and tipped the ball out of bounds, keeping the
Clippers in the lead.

"I studied him a little bit and knew when he opened up his foot, he
was going across his body to the lower right corner," Oliver said. "I
was definitely feeling good about it."

"I think (A.J.) knew where (Gabe) shoots," Hagerty added. "He still had to stop it. Being 6-4 doesn't hurt."

However, a little over two minutes later, with 29:07 to go in regulation, Falmouth finally broke through.

Senior Alec Dunn played a harmless looking ball from the left corner
toward the goal. It got through the defense and rattled free in front.
Bohrman was there for the carom and sent the ball past Oliver and into
the net to make it a brand new game.

"We got a little frustrated, but we kept working and played well,"
Bohrman said. "I went hard to the near post and Alec played me a good
ball. It deflected a little bit and came back to me. It might have hit
the post."

Both teams had chances to settle affairs in regulation.

With 21:25 left, White fired a long shot that Oliver saved. At the
other end, Yarmouth sophomore Sam Torres beat Goffin to a loose ball,
but shot it wide. A little over a minute later, Fazeli earned a free
kick at the top of the box which was blocked out of bounds, leading to
a corner kick. On the corner, the ball trickled through the crease, but
no Clipper was able to get to it and rolled harmlessly away.

With 13:15 remaining, White sent a header wide. At the 6 minute
mark, Bloom shot way high on a loose ball after a corner. In the 76th
minute, the visitors had a throw in from the side and the ball got
loose, but no Yachtsmen was there to take advantage.

It was on to overtime.

In high school boys' soccer, teams play two five-minute "sudden
victory" overtimes. Falmouth promptly made it clear that it wanted to
end things quickly.

Just 32 seconds into the extra session, Bloom sent the ball to
Hoffman-Johnson, but his header was saved. A minute later, Dunn crossed
the ball just out of White's reach. Thirty seconds after that, White
sent a header just wide. With 55 seconds left in the first OT, Bohrman
took a pass from White at the edge of the box, but fired high.

The second OT session was quieter. With 2:58 left, Yarmouth senior
Matt Waldroup raced for a Fazeli cross, but couldn't put anything on
his shot while sliding to the turf. The Yachtsmen had the final chance
with 25 seconds to play, but a cross went untouched out of bounds and
the clock ran out on the 1-1 draw.

"These are the best games to play in," Bohrman said. "They're the
most fun and the most competitive. We look forward to Yarmouth every
year."

"We had chances," Halligan lamented. "This game is unforgiving. We
came out and got down. We battled back. Gabe had a point-blank shot
their kid made a great save on. We had some headers, but just couldn't
finish. That's the way it goes sometimes. We had a lot of chances, but
it was 1-1."

"It was more than exciting," Oliver said. "We actually thought about
(the home losing streak) going out for the second half. We almost got
there. They have a lot of key players. A lot of great soccer players.
It's hard to slow them down."

"We got a great kick on the through ball from Eb," said Hagerty.
"Luke finished his run. It was terrific. I thought we earned that goal
and I thought they earned theirs. It was kind of a scrum goal, but they
carried play in the second half and deserved it.

"I look at it clearly as a game of two halves. The overall stats will
lean in their favor. I don't think either team's as good as they're
going to be. It's going to be a great second match and hopefully a
great Western Maine Final. They're a terrific team, a dangerous team,
especially when they play on this turf.

"On the field tonight, at any given time, were 10 kids who can play
in college. A lot of our sophomores grew up tonight. Both teams aren't
as good as they're going to be. It'll be fun to see the progression
before we play again."

Falmouth ended up with a 21-8 shots advantage. including a 10-4 edge
in shots on frame. The Yachtsmen also had six corner kicks to four for
the Clippers. Goffin made three saves. Oliver stopped seven shots.

"I thought A.J.'s best save of the game, wasn't the PK, but the
first one of the game that set a tone," Hagerty said. "I think it gave
the kids confidence. He's come a long way. If he wants, he can play in
college. He did a good job coming off his line when he had to to handle
long balls. They had some chances on corners."

Fun to come

After a series of early tough tests, Falmouth goes to Wells Tuesday of next week. Expect the Yachtsmen to continue to improve.

"I think we're coming together well," Bohrman said. "We have a lot
of good seniors. The underclassmen are stepping up. We're working
together well."

"We're making strides," added Halligan. "It's hard with the schedule
because we have a weak team then a strong team. The speed of play is
different. We just finished a stretch with Cape, Greely and Yarmouth.
That was good. We'll certainly see (Yarmouth) again. We're looking
forward to it."

Yarmouth now spends some time on the road, playing at Fryeburg
Tuesday and Greely Sept. 26. The Clippers are pleased with their
development in their title quest.

"We still need to get better in the final third, but I have to give
(Falmouth) credit," Hagerty said. "They limited us in the second half.
I think we're a work in progress. I like our shape on defense. (The
Yachtsmen) had seven goals in their last two big games, so to hold them
to one is a good job. We need to get better offensively."

"I feel really good and really confident," Oliver said. "We're doing
really well. It's great to get a tie with Falmouth. Last year, we
played them in the Western Maine Final. I think if we do well and they
do well, we'll do it again."

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net

 

Photo: Brandon McKenney
Falmouth senior Gabe Hoffman-Johnson and Yarmouth senior Colby Shields played a contested ball Thursday. The Clippers got a goal in the first half and the Yachtsmen answered in the second as the fierce rivals played to a draw.

Photo: Brandon McKenney
Yarmouth junior Luke Pierce appeared to get the lesser of this showdown with Falmouth senior Nick Bachman. Pierce scored the game's first goal, but the defending Class B state champion Clippers weren't able to hold the lead and settled for a 1-1 draw.